Energy consumed by data centers is a big deal. As computer miniaturization progresses, processor energy density increases, and cooling capacity demand goes up. In turn, the energy consumed to cool servers in data centers increases.
As computer component miniaturization bumps up against manufacturing limits, design emphasis is going to shift away from bending physical laws in pursuit of ever smaller computer components. The computer industry’s new focus will be system wide efficiency and energy conservation. This effort will be a grand multi-scale system design challenge for the 21st Century. It will start with more efficient components, expand to server hardware architectures, and grow as large as computer-building system interfaces. Software will also become energy-conscious; an early entrant into this area is Microsoft Server 2008 with its power saving features.
An article, “The Cascade Effect” by Jack Pouchet, which appeared recently in Sustainable Facility sums up the numbers effectively. According a white paper cited in the article, when considering energy consumed to support data centers, direct consumption accounts for 52 % of the energy while supply-side systems consume about 48%. The article claims that every 1 watt of energy saved on the level of the computer processor yields 2.84 watts saved for the facility.
Those numbers are going to be impossible for building energy managers or the computer hardware and software industries to ignore for much longer. There is money to be made in making computers more efficient.